March 21, 2018

German parties talk through the night, no end in sight

13 January 2018, 03:18 | Taylor George

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German Social Democrat (SPD) leader Martin Schulz said his party's leaders agreed unanimously on Friday to recommend to party delegates that they give them a mandate to pursue coalition talks with Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservatives.

The SPD is then set to vote at their party conference in Bonn on January 21 over whether preliminary talks with Merkel's conservatives should progress into formal negotiations.

"I think we have reached excellent results", Schulz said after the conservatives and SPD agreed a blueprint for formal coalition negotiations in exploratory talks. Founded in 2013, the AfD surged into third place in September's election, the first time in decades that a far-right, openly nationalist party had won seats in Germany's federal parliament.

Friday's agreement states that the number of new asylum-seekers shouldn't exceed a range of 180,000-220,000 annually.

He reluctantly reconsidered after Merkel's coalition talks with two smaller parties collapsed in November.

German news agency dpa reported that the agreement involves officially giving up the country's target of a 40% cut in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 compared with 1990, regarded by many as unachievable, but taking measures to close the gap as far as possible.

The plans bely fears that another "grand coalition" will muddle through for four more years as opposed to making necessary reforms. Berlin's partners are eagerly awaiting a new government to help drive forward Brexit talks, euro zone reform and European Union diplomatic initiatives.

"What is crucial is that the final coalition agreement has a strong industrial-political core in order to make Germany internationally competitive for companies", Tillmann said.

In both parties, there are younger, rising politicians who are eager to enter the big stage: For the Christian Democrats, there's 37-year-old Jens Spahn; Germans looking south to Austria, which just elected the 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz as chancellor, might be willing to get behind a new young leader.

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Merkel's bloc does not support the SPD's ideas and, in turn, proposes an increase of military spending in the framework of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member states' agreement to spend 2 percent of the GDP on the military, which the SPD opposes.

The European Commission President said in Bulgaria: "In terms of the substance I'm very happy with what the CDU/CSU and the SPD have agreed".

Fresh elections would lead to a long period of uncertainty and, according to present polls, could in the end yield a similar result, leaving Germany in exactly the same dilemma.

September's inconclusive elections left Merkel without a majority and struggling to find partners to govern Europe's biggest economy.

Issues surrounding finance were emerging as key sticking points even as Germany posted sterling growth for 2017 and a record surplus.

CDU-CSU and SPD leaders are due to report to their party executives on the outcome of the talks on Friday morning.

Seehofer told reporters this grand coalition would be different than the last one, and said the deal highlights that - for example, by including a basic pension guarantee. And it's unclear whether Merkel would lead her party in another vote.

But the main reason that a coalition deal might be reached is that the alternatives are so unappealing. "So the question, for instance, will be whether she will stay for the whole term or whether she will actually build a successor and hand over to that person".

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